Never has a religion emphasized the importance of maintaining the ties of kinship and building strong bonds with one’s relatives/family than the religion of Islam. With verses revealed on this topic, and many ahadith narrated about this virtue, it is ironic to see Muslims today far from this practice and not upholding their ties of kinship.
With the breakdown of the traditional ‘big’ family structures and mass migration of Muslims from villages to cities and various countries, we’ve lost touch with our relatives and our kin and unfortunately, by default, we’ve cut our ties of kinship.
Ask yourself, how many of your parents’ brothers and sisters do you know very well? What about their children? What about your grandparents and their relatives?
We must clarify that the ties of kinship meant here is not simply narrowed down to your immediate family members and a few uncles/aunts whom you commonly speak to, but anybody that is part of your family tree is considered a kith and kin that we must keep in touch with.
I want us to remember this powerful hadith, in which Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:
“The word ‘Ar-Rahm’ (womb) derives its name from Ar-Rahman (i.e., one of the names of Allah) and Allah said: ‘I will keep good relation with the one who will keep good relation with you, (womb i.e. Kith and Kin) and sever the relation with him who will sever the relation with you, (womb, i.e. Kith and Kin)” [Bukhari].
So this Ramadan, let us resolve to resume our ties of kinship and overcome the many barriers we face when we want to tackle this issue. Before I share with you a practical action plan, I just want us to remember one important point:
I know that every family has its issues/problems with certain relatives/family members, but this should not be a barrier for us to communicate with them. Remember why you’re tying the ties of kinship, you’re doing it for Allah (glorified and exalted be He) and as per the hadith above, you’re doing it to keep good relation with Allah (glorified and exalted be He). Also, remember the hadith of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in which he said:
“Al-Wasil is not the one who recompenses the good done to him by his relatives, but Al-Wasil is the one who keeps good relations with those relatives who had severed the bond of kinship with him” [Bukhari].
Below is a practical action plan to implement this great virtue in your life:
1. Find out who your relatives are
This is an obvious first-step, but many people skip it out of embarrassment of admitting that they don’t know all their relatives. Have a sit-down with your parents and ask them about their brothers/sisters/uncles/aunts, etc. Draw a family tree and keep a digital copy on your computer or on paper.
2. Find out their contact details
Whether it’s a phone number, an e-mail address, Facebook profile, MSN messenger, Skype or Twitter ID! (trust me, you’ll be surprised!) Find out all your relatives’ contact details and update your address book accordingly. You’ll probably find it easier to get this information through your parents but you can also try with cousins, uncles and aunts.
3. Get in touch
If your relatives are using any of the online social tools, get in touch with them online with a simple salam. I’m sure they’ll be pleasantly surprised to hear from you (who does not like to meet someone online they actually relate to?!). If a good old phone call is the only way to get in touch with them and if you don’t know them very well, rather than making a cold phone call, start breaking the ice by sending them regular text messages to their mobile phones ending with your name and perhaps a “son of so and so” or “daughter of so and so” so they can recognize you. After a while, give them a call (either with your parents around to ease the introduction) or on your own and inquire about your ‘text messages’ ;). There are lots of other ways of ‘breaking the ice’ this is just an example.
4. Interview the gran-grans
I’ll never forget an interview my sister had with my grandfather few years before he passed away. It was a moving interview about his life story and one that our entire family cherishes. There’s so much wisdom, experience, lessons that can be learnt from our elders. Just sit with them, ask them some questions and press record. No need to make it formal, just sit and listen.
5. Visit/invite for iftar
If your relatives are in the same city, you should invite each other to iftar. If parents aren’t keen because of issues between relatives, try to do it amongst the ‘youngsters’ or the ‘cousins’. Then at the iftar you can discuss various ways to resolve family feuds and stay in touch with the family.
6. Set up internet/video chat
Next time you visit ‘back home’, the family village, or your grandparents house, take with you one of the latest electronic notebooks with a front facing video camera and Skype (they are relatively cheap and pretty robust). Find out how you can set up internet (ideally wireless) for your family there and teach them the simple steps of making Skype calls/video calls. Once they figure it out, forget long distance calls, Skype would be the next thing in the village!
7. Spend charity/zakat on them
Unfortunately, these days a lot of Muslims have forgotten about spending charity/zakat on their poor relatives and family members. I’m not sure if it’s embarrassment or ‘fear’ that the relative may start ‘relying’ on us for their well-being or is it our laziness and over reliance on international charity organisations to deliver our Zakat and Sadaqah. Whatever it is, we have no excuse. Especially when we have clear instructions from Allah (glorified and exalted be He) that our charities/Zakat should be for our relatives as well as the poor and needy in other parts of the world. In fact, scholars emphasize that we should prioritize our charities/socket so it goes to those closest to us first then to the wider Muslim community. There are ways of doing this practically, including giving your sadaqah to the poor relative through another member of the family who’s more senior, or you could sponsor one of your poor relatives’ BIG expenses, e.g. their child’s education or a medical operation, etc.
8. Be the focal point for your family
If you implement some of the advice above, you’ll soon be THE focal point for family ties/meetings for your family. Happily take this responsibility and try to arrange various activities for your family, e.g. arranging family trips, draw family tree day, family fundraising for an Islamic project, e.g. mosque/orphanage, etc.
9. Resolve old issues once and for all
Once things start ‘warming up’ between relatives and you can see an opportunity to resolve old issues, try to resolve them formally, ideally through a senior member. Try to do it this Ramadan! People will be happy to forget/forgive during Ramadan/Eid and hopefully restart their relationships once again on the basis of love, mercy and Ihsaan In sha Allah.
I hope the above steps give us all a practical road map to rebuilding our ties of kinship. Let us not let shaytaan nor our busy lifestyles take away this virtue from us. There’s so much benefit from keeping ties of kinship, it’s enough that Allah (glorified and exalted be He) has promised to keep good relations with those who keep good relations with their family members.
May Allah (glorified and exalted be He) make us of those who maintain their ties of kinship. Ameen.